Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Caps vs. Rangers, February 11th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you, dear readers, to remain quiet and stand off to the side. Tonight’s opponent – the New York Rangers – have slipped to sixth place in the East and are only five points ahead of ninth place Florida. Looks like a crime scene investigation going on. Maybe we can see what the problem is here… Officer? What happened here?

“It’s ‘Detective’…well, ‘Doctor,’ actually…Sheldon Hawkes.”

What happened here, Doctor?

“Well, we discovered the New York Rangers’ here in sixth place in the East. On New Year’s Eve, they were sitting ten games over .500, but since then, they’re 6-7-2.”

Any clues?

“A few…let me call Detective Taylor over here…Mac, you guys find anything?”

“Power play. The Rangers don’t have one…eight for 51 since the start of the year. 15.7 percent… hard to win with that sort of production.”

But that’s actually an improvement over their season production.

“And I suppose you’re a detective?”

Well, no but…

“Hey, Flack…you played hockey, didn’t you?”

“Only in another movie, Mac…”

“Funny…you have any explanation why the Rangers are sinking in the standings?”

“Well, they’ve lost five in a row and given up 21 goals doing it.“

And they’ve only scored five…

“Maybe we should just turn this investigation over to you…”

Well, since you offered… The Rangers have been the very picture of mediocre for a few months now. Since jumping out to a 10-2-1 record by Hallowe’en, they are 19-18-4. They are on a five-game losing streak (0-4-1). But more than that, they have some really poor season numbers for a team with more than just “making the playoffs” aspirations…

The Rangers are among the better defensive teams in the league, as their cumulative goals allowed-per-game attests. But it is the only thing that seems to keep them in games. Their offensive woes are many…

- They are tied for last in the league in goals-scored per game

- They are 30th in goals-per-game at home

- They have scored more than three goals in only three of 17 games since Christmas, and only one of those against a team that is currently in the playoff eight of their conference.

- In a reverse example of ineptitude on offense, they have allowed eight shorthanded goals in 27 home games (tied for most allowed in the league). They’ve only scored 18 power play goals in those games.

What seems to have saved the Rangers’ season to this point is that they are 8-3 in shootouts – the most wins in the Gimmick in the league. Take that away, and they are a very pedestrian 21-20-2.

Is the problem in their parts? Well, let’s start at the top. Leading scorer Nikolai Zherdev (15-28-43) ranks no better than 47th in the league. What’s worse, he is only 3-7-10 in 17 games since Christmas.

Markus Naslund leads the club with 16 goals, which is tied for 62nd in the league. He’s had only three in 17 games since Christmas.

Then there are the payroll specials. Chris Drury, Scott Gomez,and Wade Redden encumber $20.9 million in cap room. Combined, they are 27-60-87. You might not think that altogether too bad, until you also realize that they are a combined -29 and have as many game-winning goals (six) as does Brandon Dubinsky (cap hit: $633,333).

Folks might remember that the first time these clubs met in November, Aaron Voros scored a goal (the only one for the Blueshirts in a 3-1 loss). He was something of an emerging cult hero at the time – a banger who could score (he was 6-5-11 in 17 games). Since then… 2-2-4 in 36 games. The Rangers' season in a nutshell.

Look anywhere you wish to cast your eyes, and this is a team that is a half-step from doom… at least after taking a quick perusal of the numbers. An example – the table above indicates that the Rangers are a struggling team 5-on-5 (27th in the league). Not surprisingly, that is merely the sum of the parts – five players are worse than a minus-10. By way of comparison, the Caps have two players at a team-worst minus-4. If there is a bright spot for the Rangers there, it is that Dmitri Kalinin, who was stuggling mightily in this statistic earlier in the year, is plus-7 in his last 15 games. Well, not so much “bright” as perhaps a soft glow.

Under the strict definition of the criteria for selecting a Hart Trophy winner, that the player be “judged to be the most valuable to his team,” Henrik Lundqvist might win the award. Despite getting next to no offensive support, Lundqvist is on a pace for his fourth 30-win season in four years in the league. His goals against average of 2.52 is higher than any of his previous seasons, but his save percentage of .913 is consistent with each of the past two years (when he was a Vezina Trophy finalist): .917 and .912. But here is how frustrating it’s been to be a goalie backstopping this team. In his last three games, Lundqvist has stopped 75 of 79 shots (.949 save percentage), has a goals-against average of 1.32… and doesn’t have a win to show for it (0-2-1).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

New York: Marc Staal

No, we do not think it because he’s going to have his head on a swivel looking for Alexander “Slappy” Semin. It is because he is minus-6 in his last eight games. On a team that struggles offensively, Staal – who leads the team in even strength ice time per game – can’t afford to be a minus player. He has been on the ice for 18 of the last 26 Ranger goals allowed over eight games.

Washington: Mike Green

Why not? Green is on a roll. Since the last time he had consecutive games without a point, he is 9-12-21, +7 in 12 games. This year and last, in six games against the Rangers, Green is 3-3-6, +3, with two game-winning goals (both in overtime).

The Rangers are that prize fighter that is wobbling at the end of a round in the middle of a fight from a lot of body punches. You can put ‘em down for the count, or you can let them escape to the end of the round to get their second wind. This is really a pivotal game for the Rangers. If they were to escape from the Caps, they would then have ten consecutive games against teams they were tied with (a win over the Caps would tie them with the Flyers, who they play on February 15th) or leading in the standings. That would be an opportunity for the Rangers to right their ship. But if the Caps can deliver a knockout blow, the Rangers might find those ten games even more difficult, coming as they would be in the midst of a six-game losing streak.

The Caps, even in Madison Square Garden, are the better team…

Caps 4 – Rangers 2

We can...

We can send a man to the moon, but…

We can turn orange drink into powder so the guys going to the moon can take it along, add water and have something to drink, but…

We can get 10,000 songs in a contraption smaller than a pack of cigarettes, but…

We can stick a gizmo on our car’s dashboard that tells us to within six feet where we are on the planet (and tell us in an annoying voice to turn this way or that), but…

We can build a tunnel 17 miles in circumference just to fire tiny little particles at one another really fast (ok, so that one doesn’t quite work, yet), but…

We can identify the entire human genome, but…

We can almost have a fully self-assembling “stomach-bot” for medical diagnoses and treatments, but…

We can turn water into fuel (it ain’t wine, but with the price of gas, it’ll do), but…


Heck, they discovered ice in the rocks on Mars. Pfft…kid stuff. Let’s see them discover it at the Verizon Center.